Q&A: Brett Goldhawk, MD, Ziggurat Brands, London
Brett Goldhawk is MD at Ziggurat Brands, a brand design and innovation agency specialising in the food and drink sectors. His focus is on bringing consumer and business led insight, challenge, and the tough but important questions to brand owners looking for on shelf retail stand out and commercial success.
What does your company do?
Specialists in food and drink brand design, creation and marketing, from concept to shelf. Clients include New York Bakery Co, AB World Foods, Greene King, Royal Collection Trust, Grupo Bimbo & Nature’s Aid
What’s special about it? Is there a gap you are trying to address?
Much of this is about approach and mentality. There are challenges we try to help brands tackle which are hugely topical, real, and ever evolving. Walking around a typical supermarket, we see too many bland brands that are missing the chance to come alive and talk to consumers through bold packaging, evocative language, and emotional marketing. Aisles that are full of copycat lookalikes. A need for sustainable packaging and approaches that go beyond the surface level or greenwashing, driven by purpose first rather than falling into the trap of marketing first. I think, in a positive way, we try to be the people in the planning room that aren’t afraid to ask the awkward questions. It’s not about being contrary. But it is about being challenging, otherwise we end up with more of the same issues.
What challenges are retailers facing, and where do you see retail in the next year or so?
Sustainable packing solutions for both brands that want to win, and retailers that want their strategies for improvement to gain support. It’s a JFDI start point to meet customer expectation, but there is still room for creativity and innovation to help stand out.
Finding a sense of brand theatre again to draw people in and build/rebuild fresh loyalty. It’s not always about the TV ad mass spend and awareness driving, but about bricks and mortar reasons to visit, remember and even talk about what they saw. And if you do advertise, then matching the experience with the glossy promise needs some major attention in some spaces.
Finding the right brand extensions and ideas that will get customers buying into something new. Breakfast cereals that work as late night snacks? Outdoor brands and energy foods? Ethical beauty brands and alternative vegan foods? Confectionary brands and sugar free sodas/seltzers? It’s not a time to stand still…
How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?
‘What if’ is the key attitude to adopt. Too often as an agency partner we are briefed to help with something very buttoned down and fixed from a client’s perspective. There is always good stuff in there, but it can be shackled to pre-defined expectations. So it’s back to our challenge to the challenge. Nothing beats round the table immersive workshopping the hell out of something as one team with the client live and in the mix. It’s co-creation in part, rather than presenting thoughts we have that miss an understanding of the journey that got us there. That’s an exciting place to be in. Big challenges and big opportunities.
What’s on the horizon for you as a business?
We have all been affected by the pandemic, the lack of joy and freedom that we all took for granted. As the dust settles and things start to return to normal, brands have a chance to play a central role in the re-emergence of human-to-human contact – love, laughter, and richer reward. Our business is looking to accelerate the opportunities for brands to reimagine the high street and re-establish it as the heartbeat of the community. We are driving consumer centric innovation, brand partnerships and collaborations, storytelling, and retailer experiences – everything that can bring deeper meaning and better experiences to customer lives.
On a personal note, what are they key challenges, and most rewarding aspects of your role?
I’m a curious person by nature, so to have a job that where that is central to everything is fantastic. And although end products are the sexy proof of the pudding, the insight moment that takes us there is the winner for me. The challenge is looking around retail stores and seeing the scope of what brands could be doing and getting frustrated that they aren’t!
How has previous retail experience helped you in your role?
20 years of working with brands and retailer shelves gives me a great back catalogue of winners and losers I’ve seen in the brand stakes, both of which have inspired me in one way or another. On one hand I’m not a normal shopper with all that exposure, but critically on the other hand I am exactly that, but with the ability to express out loud what would otherwise be filed away in my head.
What advice would you give someone interested in a ‘retail’ career (from a branding agency pov)
Always remember you are a customer first. Always. Someone who shares the same highs and the same lows as the people you serve. Great customer service is a must; empathy and compassion go a long way in this industry. Armed with this knowledge it’s then about making an impact – what friction can you remove from the customer journey? What areas are ripe for fresh thinking? Where can we embrace technology or apply better thinking? And of course, the most important of them all, what role will I play in making the world a better place – sustainability, climate change, community initiatives, the human touch. Be brave, be bold and make a difference.
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